FDA Plans to Propose a Ban on Hair Relaxers with Formaldehyde Over Cancer Risk

In the wake of a Journal of the National Cancer Institute (JNCI) study linking regular use of hair relaxers to a doubled risk of uterine cancer, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is preparing to announce a proposal that could lead to a ban on formaldehyde and formaldehyde-releasing chemicals, like methylene glycol, in hair relaxer products sold in the US. The formal announcement, expected in April, will be followed by an FDA assessment to determine if it should move forward with a ban.

Formaldehyde— a pungent, colorless, and flammable gas— is widely used in various industries, from building materials and glues to disinfectants and foam insulation. It can also be found in trace amounts in some foods and is even produced naturally by the human body during metabolism. However, this seemingly ubiquitous chemical has been linked to serious health risks.

In 2004, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) concluded that there was “significant evidence” connecting formaldehyde to nasal cancer in humans. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had already classified formaldehyde as a “probable human carcinogen” back in 1987 due to its link to lung cancer. Moreover, strong evidence suggests that prolonged exposure to formaldehyde may also be associated with leukemia.

Despite the health risks, many hair relaxer brands continue to use formaldehyde or formaldehyde-releasing chemicals in their formulas. These chemicals help to keep the products free from bacterial contamination and extend their shelf life. However, when hair relaxers containing these chemicals are applied to the scalp, formaldehyde gas is released, potentially exposing users to harmful levels of the carcinogen.

As the FDA prepares its proposal, a couple states have already taken steps to protect beauty product consumers; California and Maryland have committed to banning formaldehyde from all personal care products by 2025. If the FDA moves forward with a ban on formaldehyde in hair relaxers, it could set a precedent for other states to follow suit.

This lawsuit is still in its early stages, so don’t miss your chance to join the hair relaxer lawsuit as trials begin to unfold. If you or an immediate family member developed uterine or ovarian cancer after regularly using a drugstore hair relaxer, see if you qualify to receive compensation.